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01 December, 2013

Book review: How Long Will I Cry? Voices of Youth Violence

Title: How Long Will I Cry? Voices of Youth Violence
Editor: Miles Harvey
Publisher: Big Shoulders Books
Publication Date: 2013

This book is a companion to the play How Long Will I cry? that was produced by the Steppenwolf Theater in 2013.

The final version of this book was a collaborative effort by the creative writing students at DePaul University located in Chicago, IL. It uses collaborative story-telling methods to collect the real stories of people in Chicago whose lives have been touched by violence.

Chicago is still extremely racially divided. recent information given by the country France to it's tourists coming to visit the city tells it's citizens to avoid whole sections on the South and West sides of the city due to the mortality and crime rates.

This book takes stories of many types of people from many areas of the city to talk about the impacts of violence caused by and to the youth of the city of Chicago. Story types range from those of families who have lost children, community member in neighborhoods affected by violence who are working to change the neighborhoods in positive ways, stories told by both current gang members and ex-gang members, and youth who have been affected by the violence in many different types of ways. The stories while mainly focused on the South and West sides of the city also show how ares on the North and Northwest sides of the city are being affected by gang related violence.

This book impacted me in ways that I wasn't expecting. The stories, while predominantly sad, and filled with rage and hopelessness also had hope sprinkled through it's pages. Stories were shared by people who were trying to make a difference after loosing their own loved ones to violence. At the end of the book there is a list of organizations who are trying to work against youth violence in the city and while one could be disheartened by the length of the list, it is amazing to see how many people care about changing the city that I live in.

As a life long resident of Chicago my entire life I was spared  the effects of neighborhood gang violence until my late teens. I grew up in a neighborhood on the Northwest side that was predominantly white, with a strong Irish and Polish element to the families living in it. when I was in high school I attended a magnet school which drew students from all parts of the city, and was very racially diverse. I made friends from outside of my own neighborhood and sadly lost one to gang related violence right after graduation. There were times going out when I knew I had to either go home before a certain time or call for a ride home because it wasn't safe to wait for the CTA where we were.

This book is being given to readers for free through various events to promote awareness of the issue and by request to Big Shoulders Books which is a very big thing. By making the book free it will help get it into the hands of people who might not be able to buy a book, and the publishers encourage readers to pass their copy along to another reader when they finish. I was 1/4th of the way through the copy I was reading before I passed it onto a sociology student at NEIU That I had just met after it sparked a conversation between she and I. I plan on passing this copy on through one of the little free libraries that have popped up on the North/Northwest side of the city to hopefully find a new reader to touch.

Readers who are interested in acquiring their own copy of this book can visit Big Shoulders Books page about the book to request a free copy.

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